“Today, I’m not advocating for tolerance. I’m advocating for intolerance. We must be intolerant of hate speech. We must be intolerant of those who advocate violence against anyone. We can have difference of opinion. We can disagree with one another, but in a civil society, we are allowed to express our volition of free will without fear of reprisal.”
On June 1, Rabbi Henry Morse of Congregation Sha’ar Hashamayim spoke those words in front of of more than 100 people at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the state’s only Holocaust Memorial, on Main Street in Nashua.
It was a sunny day, and the crowd of diverse religions, ethnicities and ages listened intently to the many speakers who shared similar sentiments.
The ceremony’s messages were “never forget” and “never again.” Those are also the words that former Nashua alderman and Holocaust survivor Fred Teeboon hope the haunting and powerful monument will continue to convey for hundreds of years to come.
For Teeboon, the memorial is both personal and public. He’s one of the few living Holocaust survivors — nearly all of his family on both his mother’s and father’s sides were killed by the Nazis after Holland was invaded in 1940. Teeboon survived because his mother identified the home of a Christian member of the Dutch underground who provided shelter.
“Six million Jews ands 14 million civilians were slaughtered,” Teeboon said in an interview. “I knew the real Nazis, but after my generations, they don’t. We feel children today are not adequately educated about what happened.”
Visitors of the memorial walk down a patch of railroad that symbolizes the journey of victims in crowded cattle-trains, from their homes into the gas chambers, Teeboom said.They come to six large granite panels, each representing the walls of an extermination camp. In the middle of the arrangement is a brick column that represents a crematorium, topped with a polished black granite cube that reflects the image of visitors and may remind them they are part of the things around them.
“The design is not to be an entertaining, cute thing with rainbows here and there,” sculptor John Weidman, who created the monument, said in an interview. “There weren’t rainbows. … All their was was hope and desperation, and that black cube in center, I could just not imagine anything else to say except black. Forget words — there are no words for it.”
Teeboon’s efforts to create the Holocaust memorial began in the 1980s after a visit to the concentration camp Dachau. Four years ago, while he was alderman-at-large, he took his idea to Weidman.
“I approached him after I saw him unveiling a big sculpture we have at Rivier College,” he said. I said, ‘John you build these wonderful monuments. I’m intrigued by the size and materials. Maybe we can talk about doing a Holocaust memorial.’”
After the pair came up with a model, Teeboon approached the city to get approval and began his fundraising efforts, securing $150,000 primarily from private donors. Support came from local Jewish synagogues, Christian churches and a Masonic Temple from Massachusetts. The City of Nashua donated the land.
In the beginning, not everybody was supportive, Teeboon said. He received a comment via the Internet from someone who said, “I don’t want to walk by Main Street and see this ugly reminder of what was a European problem, because I don’t want to scare my little girl,” he said. “My response was, ‘You better kiss the ground you live on.’ … It’s a reminder to protect where you live.”
As seen in the June 5, 2014 issue of the Hippo.